Tuesday, October 30, 2007

0% Trans Fat

You'll be happy to note that this web log now has 0% trans fat.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bawston Spawts

Yesterday was a good day for Boston sports fans. The Red Sox won the World Series and the Patriots crushed a pretty good Washington Redskins team. I find myself in the odd position of loving the Red Sox and hating the Patriots. You see, I grew up over the western United States, so location never meant much to me when I picked teams to root for. But more on that in some other post.

The Boston Red Sox

It's not that Mike Lowell didn't deserve to win the MVP. He did. Still, I kind of hoped Jonathan Papelbon had won the award. Forget about the fact that he made three saves; what's more important is the sense of relief he gives to his teammates and fans. If the Red Sox have the lead in the late innings, they're going to win. (Personal digression: I was with a woman once, and, um, let's just continue with the sports lingo and say that I shut her out, 1-0. "No problem," she said. "I'll just bring Eck out of the bullpen." So she reached into the bag of goodies she had stashed under the bed and pulled out her silver friend who looked nothing like Dennis Eckersley. There went my shutout.)

There was once of those online polls asking which team was better, the 2004 Red Sox or the 2007 Red Sox. Despite the ridiculous nature of those polls, it's a good question. The 2004 team had to deal with all the Babe Ruth curses, disbelievers, and back monkeys, so for them to overcome all that and win was remarkable. Still, they were the underdog wildcard team that year, and they seemed overmatched against a better Yankees team. This year's Red Sox had a handful of the same players -- Ortiz, Schilling, Manny, and a few others -- but they had the best record in baseball from April through October. The Yankees made a furious comeback, but the Red Sox held them off and never panicked. If an alien world or Cuba challenged us to pick one of those Red Sox teams to a best-of-seven series against its finest players, I'd take the 2007 Red Sox.

The New England Patriots

Wow, is this team bitter! Leading 38-0 in the fourth quarter, the Patriots had the ball on the Redskins 2-yard-line when a lineman jumped offsides. Tom Brady barked at him as if the outcome of the game were still in question. A couple plays later, Brady hit an open receiver in the end zone, and both players celebrated like they'd just taken the lead. In this situation, most teams resort to their running games to run out the clock, but the Pats insist on playing hard and running up the score. I think part of it is the mentality that when you're on the field, you give it your all. But it seems like there's something else going on, like maybe the Patriots are getting revenge everyone for calling them cheaters. Nevermind the fact that they were caught cheating. Maybe if they win this year without cheating, people will forget that they used to make a habit of cheating, and the fact that their cheating cost the good-hearted Colts a couple of Super Bowl titles. I hate the Patriots.

Next Sunday, the Patriots are going to play the Colts. Neither team has lost. The Patriots look invincible, winning their games by an average of about 25 points. The Colts look shaky by comparison, often struggling in the early stages of the game. The Colts have beaten the Patriots three times in a row, but this Patriots team has three of the best receivers in the league. More on that game later, sports fans.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Pointless Lego Story

You want to know an empty feeling? Come home from work and have your 3-year-old kids ignore you because they're busy drawing. I fully expect my boys to ignore me when they're 14, but when they're 3? Here's how I fixed the problem. Whenever I come home, I bring them either a treat or a prize. The treats are something like a piece of Jolly Rancher candy that I grab from the candy jars at work. The prizes are crappy things that can be found lying around at companies, like Ion+ decals or anti-stress balls. Now when I come home, I hear shouts and demands. My children love me, they really, really love me. They chase me around the house, pry the treat/prize out of my hands, and then make me tell them the story of how I got it. The stories usually involve tricking the troll that lives under the bridge or defeating the pirates that menace Lake Union.

So yesterday, I forgot to grab something from the candy jar and went home without a treat. When the boys asked me if I had a treat, I told them what I usually tell them: No. Unfortunately, I always say no to tease them. So they started to chase me, and I told them that no, really, I don't have a treat, and no means no. They're smart kids, so they know that despite what feminists claim, no doesn't really mean no during negotiations. Thinking quickly, I saw two Lego catalogs sitting in the junk mail pile, so I grabbed them and started running around the house. It worked! They chased me down, grabbed the catalogs, and stared at them for the rest of the evening.

Luke enjoyed the catalog a little too much. He read the catalog for an hour before dinner. He read the catalog all through dinner. He read the catalog while standing in the bathtub. When I took the catalog away from him so that I could clean him, he cried for the next 15 minutes while I watched the baseball game and kept shouting, "No, you can't have the Lego catalog! You're wet!" He slept with the catalog under his bed. This morning, he insisted that his mother repair the catalog with tape and staples. Luke is addicted to Lego porn.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Most Influential Short Stories

Robert recently wrote a web log entry on the movies and books that most influenced him, so I decided to take a break from my Justin Timberlake research to discuss this subject. Unfortunately, I've already deleted nearly this entire post on account of its being boring. Can you believe that? OK, the movies part wasn't so bad, but The Lord of the Rings, Revenge, and Walden for books? The Lord of the Rings proves I'm a nerd, Revenge proves I enjoyed pulp fiction in high school, and Walden proves I was sophomoric as a college sophomore (thank god I was never exposed to Ayn Rand). I suppose the stuff about The Brothers Karamazov and The Power and the Glory were decent, but not enough to maintain reader interest in a web log in which readers come to expect the highest quality of script. So I deleted all that nonsense, changed the title, and rewrote this intro, wiping out the previous mess so thoroughly that it's as if it never happened. So let's talk about influential short stories.

The Most Dangerous Game

An 8th grade English teacher was tuned in to what adolescents care to read. She sat us down in a circle as if we were 3rd graders and read stories that she thought we'd actually like. We didn't have to write about them or point out symbolism; we were just supposed to enjoy them. I remember Jack London's "To Build a Fire" and a Sherlock Holmes story, but the one that got me fired up was "The Most Dangerous Game." The teacher started reading the story, but the period ended before she could finish (now that I think about it, she probably did it on purpose). I actually went to the library, used the Dewey Decimal system to hunt down the short story collection, and read the story all the way through. I remember being so dizzy with my flight of fancy that I didn't even know what happened at the end. By the way, that's when you know a story works -- when you're so excited about it that you can no longer pay attention.
Neighbor Rosicky
Minette just asked me which Willa Cather novel to read, and I had to confess that I think they're all as boring as cornfields. After reading "Neighbor Rosicky" by Cather, I proclaimed her to be my favorite writer. When I tried to read the novels of my favorite author, I was disappointed that she couldn't duplicate the sentimental magic that made this story feel like something Norman Rockwell would have written. Back then, that was a good thing. Maybe it still is. Maybe I like Norman Rockwell and pizza with ham and pineapple.
Water Liars
I loved this Barry Hannah story when I read it in a book called American Short Story Masterpieces, which is an anthology that includes masterpieces of short stories by Americans. "Water Liars" actually made its way into a book called Yonder Stands Your Orphan. Wendy and Minette read it for their book club. They HATED it, so they asked me to explain to them why I liked it so much. I told them it was funny and poignant, but they glared at me as if I'd just tried to explain why Carrot Top is a hilarious comedian. Maybe it's a guy thing. Water Liars, I mean, not Carrot Top. I don't think he's all that funny. Carrot Top, that is.
I still think "Gooseberries" is the most beautiful short story I've ever read.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Justin Time

When I referred to an SNL clip in a previous post, I mentioned that Justin Timberlake is considered one of the great all-time guest hosts in the same league as Alex Baldwin and Tom Hanks. This revelation shocked me. I had Justin Timberlake categorized in the same league as Nick Lachey, Kevin Federline, and Kato Kaetlin. A commenter even mentioned that he had a "man crush" on Justin Timberlake. That sounds admirable, so I promised I'd look into it to see if I too could develop a man crush. In my research, I discovered that Mr. Timberlake has rare talent. Take a look at this sketch, and see if you can think of someone else who could have pulled this off (NBC frequently removes full clips from YouTube, so if you're reading this in the future, click here for Timberlake highlights):

I wouldn't go so far as to say I have a man crush on Justin Timberlake, but I'm certainly manfatuated.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Brian's Song, Part I

My father belonged to the Air Force, so we packed up and moved every three or four years, from Idaho to Sacramento to Riverside to Omaha to Colorado Springs to Upper Michigan, and then back to Riverside, where my family finally settled. The move from Colorado Springs to Michigan was my favorite, not just because I was able to escape from Colorado Springs, but because Michigan was a departure from suburbia. We lived on an Air Force base carved out of a forest in the middle of nowhere, about 45 miles away from Marquette, population 45,000. I picked blueberries with my sisters and trudged a couple miles down to the lake every day to "fish" with my brother, systematically proving that no fish lived in the lake. My brother left to go on his mission, so I braced myself for another miserable first day in a new school.

When I got on the bus, I hid my nervousness by making a beeline for an empty seat and then staring out the window. Before I knew it, a tall kid with blond hair and blues eyes moved over from a different seat, plopped himself next to me, and started yammering in a thick Southern accent.

"You the new guy, ain't ya? Mah daddy says your daddy say you a backstroka. What's your time?"

"One oh seven," I lied. It was really a couple seconds slower at the time.

"Aw, I got dat beat. I go a one oh six. You better find another stroke, hear? Say, what's your name?"


"Bob? That ain't no kinda name. We'll git you a real name. Don't worry."

That was Brian. From Shreveport, Louisiana. In either this blog or the other one, I've written about a guy who shot sitting ducks, talked me into scuba diving for the first time at night in the ocean, and broke out of a mental ward. Brian. I thought it would be a good idea to string together my favorite Brian anecdotes:

The South Done Run Outta Amnition

Until I met Brian, I had no idea that anyone who wasn't a history buff still cared about the Civil War. Brian was still furious with the North, so he refused to call Michigan home. I got the sense that he was hoping for another Civil War to break out so that he could enlist and charge across the fields with drawn sword. He had a bunch of Civil War memorabilia, including a sword that his great great grandfather allegedly fought with. Brian explained to me that the notches in the sword were a sign of the fact that his ancestor was a great fighter, so he added to his family's reputation by smacking the sword against his cast iron bed frame. Brian taught me that the South had much better fighters than the North, but the South lost only because they ran out of ammunition. When I asked him what he thought of freeing the slaves, he said I read too many books. The war wasn't about freeing the slaves. That was a just an excuse. No, it was about independence. The North stole their independence with lies and carpetbags.

Family Matters

Brian's father was a workaholic, his mother was an alcoholic, and his younger brother was a 6'5" weed. I went over to Brian's house dozens of times, and I saw his father there only once or twice. In fairness, he was the Base Commander, so he had a lot of responsibilities, but Brian said his father couldn't stand seeing his wife drinking herself to death and was probably carrying on with another woman. His family lived in one of the fancier houses on the base, or at least it had been fancy before they moved in. There were cracks and dents in walls where Brian and his younger brother Scott had thrown each other, and there was a gaping hole where Brian had fired his shotgun in anger. My head caused one of the dents. When I laughed at something mean Brian had said to his brother, Scott shoved my head into the wall. I stepped out of the fight because it was two against one.

Brian's mother was polite unless she was binge drinking, in which case she'd hear Brian and me walk in through the door and say something like, "Who on earth is that? Is that that Bob boy? What does he want? Get him out!" Then Brian and his mother would shout and curse at each other. When I tried to leave, Brian would grab me and yell at me to ignore his crazy bitch mother and go down in the basement. So I'd go down in the stark basement where the television sat on a crate in front of an unpadded throw rug and wait for Brian to finish yelling at his mother. This happened more than once.

Trouble with the Law

Brian wasn't a big fan of the law, and the law wasn't a big fan of Brian. The military police on the Air Force base knew Brian by sight and name. You'd like to think there was a camaraderie between Brian and the cops who tried to catch him, like between Boss Hogg and the Duke boys, but no, the MPs simply hated Brian. Whenever we'd try to get back on base after curfew, we knew we'd get hassled if Brian was with us. In fact, we had our rights read to us several times just for breaking curfew. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one . . . Of course, Brian couldn't just shut up. He had to insult the military police, there would be a flare-up, and Brian's father would have to intervene.

I don't know why the MPs disliked Brian so much. It's not like he stole things or beat people up. He just drove fast and crazy. Once he drove past the front gate without stopping and showing his military ID, which is a no-no on a military base, and there were a couple of domestic disputes at home that required police intervention, including the shotgun incident. Whenever I was doing seriously illegal stuff with Brian, like shooting ducks on the military base, we never got caught. The only time we were thrown in jail was fairly innocent. Brian's father was an Air Force pilot, so he had a couple of those fighter pilot helmets with the oxygen mask proboscis. Brian and I thought it would be a swell idea to drive around the base wearing those helmets, and of course a humorless MP pulled us over. I immediately took off my helmet, but Brian left his helmet on. When the cop asked him for his license and registration, Brian spoke to him through the mask as if he were a pilot speaking to a ground control operator. "Delta gamma, we have a request for a license and registration check. Permission to override. Out." While I was still laughing, another car pulled up, and some MPs read our rights yet again and led us to the police station in handcuffs. The crime -- impersonating a commissioned officer. We knew Brian's father would get us off the hook because he was the base commander, and they knew we knew it, but they still made us sit there behind bars for a couple of hours, getting scared straight by boredom.

Of course, I enjoyed Brian's crazy behavior more than I should have. I was an obedient Mormon boy, so being along for the ride gave me plenty of vicarious thrills.

Sitting Ducks

I know I've written about this before, but I need to include it again for continuity. One day, Brian was overly excited about ducks. When I think back on it now, he was showing signs of manic-depressive behavior, and this was part of the mania. He called me by my nickname, Z, which was short for Zero. (The football players in my science class called me a zero because I swam instead of played football. Go Colts!)

"I seen 'em, Z. Ducks! They're just sitting in the pond. All we need to do is git em."

"What are you talking about? Why do we need ducks?"

He looked at me like I was crazy. "So that we can make duck l'orange!"

Ah, of course. What was I thinking? We walked into Brian's house, past his drunk mother sprawled on the expensive couch, and into Brian's bedroom, where he pulled out his gun supply. He called it his "ordnance."

"I git the shotgun, because I'm the only one who's going to be doing any real killin'. But you can't just walk through the woods without a rifle, so you take this here. It's a 30 aught 6, so be careful. If you hit a duck with this here rifle, they ain't gonna be nothin' left, and then we'll just be left with a can of orange juice for dinner. And here, take these. You need you some waders."

K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base was divided into two sections: a large residential area and the military complex. Between those two areas was a huge forest, including a lake where I lifeguarded during the summer. There was a small pond at the bottom of the ravine near the main road. As we were making our way through the forest, I had in the back of my mind that this was nothing but ridiculous play-acting. After all, I'd been out with Brian before to hunt bear, and we never came close to seeing a bear. All of a sudden, Brian shushed me and got a serious look on his face. He pointed at the pond through the trees, where a mother duck was leading her ducklings. Brian stalked his prey. That cracked me up for some reason, so I followed along trying desperately not to laugh out loud. Brian got within 20 yards or so and BOOM! There was a big splash in the water. The mother duck was swimming in circles while Brian reloaded.

"Shoot, Z, shoot!"

I tried to shoot but the safety was on. I flipped the switch and fired from my hip. There was a little splash about three feet in front of the duck, and the duck stopped moving. One of the three ducklings had swum away, one was dead, and the other was up-side-down and kicking its feet. Brian scooped up the duck and said we need to clear out.

"But what about the little duck?" I said.

"Aw, it'll just die like a bug. We need to go!"

I grabbed the little duck and started to run. We heard sirens, which may or may not have been related to us. After running for a few minutes, we stopped so that Brian could listen.

"Here, Brian. Kill this."

Brian glared at me.

"Naw, you kill it. Just snap its neck. Ain't no different than a chicken."

"I've never killed a chicken. You do it, and let's go."

Brian held up his hands. I think he got tired of the fact that I wanted to experience the tag-along thrills without getting my hands dirty, so he was taking a stand. I looked down at the duckling, which was still moving. I knew I had to kill it, but I couldn't bring myself to wringing its neck. So I decided to throw it against a tree. I missed.

"What . . . the . . . hell was that?" Brian said.

"I missed the tree. I'll be right back." I started to go look for the duckling, but Brian said he heard a noise again. Someone might be after us. I didn't hear anything, but I started to run anyway. Brian saw some ducks flying in the air, so he stopped and shot. He missed.

"Run!" he yelled. We ran a few miles back to Brian's house, where he went to work on the cutting board. While skinning the duck, he found a slug that he claimed was from my rifle.

"You killed it!" he exulted.

He skinned the duck, took some orange juice concentrate from the freezer, and fried the duck meat. We ate duck l'orange.

[To be continued...]

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Patriots Act

I know it's not quite Super Bowl week, but there's something exciting going on in football right now -- the New England Patriots are playing at a higher level than any team I've ever seen in my whole entire middle-aged life. After watching them tear apart the Cowboys on Dallas' home field, I would be surprised if any team beats New England this year. They're 6-0, they've won five of their games by more than 20 points, and the other game they won by 17 -- not exactly a nailbiter.

Don't think I'm happy about this. At one point, I actually liked the Patriots. I rooted for them in their first two Super Bowl wins, especially when they all ran out on the field as a team and refused to have individual names announced during the pre-game hype. And how can you root against hardnosed old school guys like Tom Brady, Troy Brown, Teddy Bruschi, and Mike Vrabel? Then something happened to them. I'm pretty sure I know what it is, but I'm reluctant to come out and say it. But here it goes. I have a theory that the Patriots became evil.

It all started when the Patriots beat my beloved Colts yet again. I like Peyton Manning, and I rooted for him to overcome his nervousness problem in big games. Like Steve Young, he looked best against middling competition, but when he went up against a tough defense during the playoffs, he got happy feet and lost his confidence and timing. In the same way that it's much more interesting for me to see a cowering soldier overcome his fear than it is to watch a John Wayne guy lead a charge, I prefer the Steve Youngs and Peyton Mannings to the Joe Montanas and Tom Bradys. During the playoffs a few years ago, Manning played well, but the Patriots took advantage of loose officiating and practically tackled the Colts receivers on every play. Insult to injury, at the end of the game, once they knew it was in the bag, the Patriots openly mocked the Colts and their fans. Yeah, that's right. The Patriots hurt my feelings. When the Patriots went on to win their third Super Bowl title, I hated them as much as I hated the Cowboys and Steelers back in the 70s. The Patriots are the kind of team that keeps a low profile and doesn't talk trash until they have the game in hand, and then wham! They let it all out, and start dancing on the opponent's helmet logo at midfield. I hate guys like that. And now they're running up the score.

The Colts are the only team that appears to be in the same league as the Patriots (in the same way that the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays are in the same league). The Patriots haven't beaten the Colts since that awful game -- the Colts have won three straight, including an enormously fulfilling come-from-behind victory in last year's AFC championship game -- but both teams are different now. The Patriots added three talented receivers, including one of the best receivers of all-time, and an all-pro linebacker to their team, while the Colts lost a bunch of players from last year's championship team. The Indy reserves have stepped up and the Colts are playing well, but at this point, if both teams play their best, the Colts will get beaten -- badly.

That said, there are two things in the Colts favor. First, they're the defending champions, but everyone is overlooking them since the Pats have been steamrolling everyone. It's no surprise that Manning plays much better when he's an underdog. Second, they've reversed roles with the Patriots. The Colts used to be a pass-first offense that ran the ball only to keep defenses honest. Now, they run more than they pass. The Patriots were a run-first team when they won their Super Bowls, but now they're pass happy. Great defenses can take away the pass, and the Patriots may no longer have the mindset to grind out a victory by running the ball.
We'll get a preview November 4, when the two teams play. If the Colts don't win that one, the Patriots are probably going to go undefeated. I'm getting nauseous just thinking about it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Doris' Day

Forget about Al Gore and his little Nobel Peace Prize. Any wimp can win that. The Nobel Prize for Literature, on the other hand, is a genuinely difficult accomplishment. The closest I came to winning this prestigious award was in 1993, when I finished in fifth place behind the wildly overrated Toni Morrison and a few other hacks. So three cheers for Doris Lessing: Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! If you've never read anything by Doris Lessing, give this short story a shot. It's called Through the Tunnel. She's a commie pinko, but she writes real purdy-like.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What to Call Bad People

Warning: This entry contains language of a most foul and degrading nature. So deal, motherfucker!

Person of Bad ConductWhat to Call Them
The guy who yells at cyclists from a passenger windowAssclown
The corpulent man at the next table who blows his nose like a goose and mumbles something like "Mebs" for no reasonDouchelord
Woman who instructs you on your way out the door to pick up some fucking Menthol Lites or don't come the fuck homeBattle Axe
The server who ignores you the whole meal and then puts on a big smile when she gives you the check and explains how busy she isSlutmonkey
The guy who comes to a complete stop in the right lane and makes a slow left turnYou don't call him anything; you just check out his demographic, because you have a working hypothesis...
A politician who doesn't recall anything while testifyingRepublican
The guy who sets off a bomb in a crowded bus stationSilly Goose
The guy who calls someone a "Fucktard"Fuckwit
A manager who yells at workersCaptain Happy
A guy who calls people with children "breeders"Dog Fucker
The slick guy who talks aloud into an ear phone in a public placeTit
A guy from Colorado SpringsAsshole
They guy who throws cigarette butts into a urinalTurd Bloom
The person with an ongoing car alarm problemPudsniffer

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Is SNL Still Funny?

I haven't seen Saturday Night LIve in ten years and I haven't watched it regularly in about fifteen years. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I used to watch it regularly from the early years, and I mean the early years, back before Bill Murray replaced Chevy Chase. It reached a peak for me when Dana Carvey and Phil Hartmen were stars. With TiVo/DVR, there's no reason not to watch it, even when there are a bunch of hosts I've never heard of.

I heard an interview yesterday with an SNL writer who discussed the Ten To phenomenon, which I assume are the bizarre, experimental episodes that air near the end of the show, at ten to one. The interviewer referred to a Barry Gibb sketch as one of his favorites, so I decided to check it out. Like other late sketches, this one is bizarre and uneven, but it cracked me up. Maybe I need to start watching again.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Idol Worship

I'm not an American Idol fan. I was going to say that I don't have anything against the show, but now that I think about it, that's not exactly true. I actively dislike the show. Even though I don't watch it, it's so ingrained in our culture that I know who Kelly Clarkson and William Hung are, and there's a big black guy named Reuben who should have wowed me. From what I've seen on YouTube videos and in the quick flip-by glimpses on television, there are two types of contestants: the laughable and the annoying. I don't enjoy laughing at people who can't sing, because I have them all beat in terms of poor singing talent. And of the decent contestants, most of them have the same melismatic pop style derived from the likes of Christina Aguilera, which is not a good thing in my book. Instead of hitting one note, why not run through a bunch of notes? I blame it on Jimi Hendrix and his ridiculous rendition of the national anthem at Woodstock. Now everyone has to show off their range of notes. Oh say does that star spangled banner yet wa - hay - HAY - hay - HAY - ave . . .

That said, a co-worker sent me this link of a phone salesman who thinks he can sing opera. I liked it, corniness and all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Levels of Winning

The great Bill Simmons updated his "Levels of Losing" column recently, but he has yet to create a "Levels of Winning" column. Until the World's Greatest Sports Fan creates the definitive list, this one will have to suffice:

X. The Cheap Win

Your team ekes out a sloppy win, but only through luck, opponents' mistakes, and perhaps a little help from officials. The victory makes you happy but defensive; you don't want to watch a replay of the game. If you're a Democrat, you admit that your team caught a few breaks to win, but it all evens out in the end, so let's sing Kumbaya and move on. If you're a Republican, your team won, end of story, now shut the hell up.

Examples: Royals over Cards in 85, Heat over Mavs in 06, Pittsburgh over Seattle in 06, Argentina over England in the 86 World Cup, Pats over Colts from 03 to 05.

IX. Someone Had to Win

Your team wins, but no one else cares.

Examples: 84 BYU Cougars, 97 Marlins, 03 Bucs, 06 Cards, 98 Shakespeare in Love, any Tour de France winner after Lance Armstrong.

VIII. A Regular Win

Your team wins a game.

Example: In 1987, the Cleveland Browns defeated the New England Patriots 20-10 in the regular season to improve their record to 3-1. A reserve linebacker separated his shoulder.

VII. A Championship Win

Your team wins a championship.

Example: The Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2001.

VI. Birth of a Dynasty

Your team wins that second or third title within a five-year span, allowing them a place in the hallowed "Greatest Ever" discussions.

Examples: Yanks over Braves in 99, Pats over Carolina in 04, Spurs over Cavs in 07, Lance Armstrong wins his third Tour de France title, Season 3 of The Wire.

V. Winner of the See-Saw Battle

Your team wins a thrilling back-and-forth game (or series) against a great opponent.

Examples: Reds over Red Sox in 76, Celtics over Lakers in 84, Lakers over Celtics in 85, USA over China in women's soccer, Hagler over Hearns in boxing, Swayze over Farley in a dance-off.

IV. The Champs Hang On

A great team near the end of its reign is overmatched by a younger, more talented team, but your guys somehow gut out a victory.

Examples: Steelers over Rams in 79, Celtics over Pistons in 87, Bulls over Jazz in 98, Niners over Packers in 98, Michael Flatley winning the "Lord of the Dance" title in 04.

III. The Huge Upset

Your team comes out of nowhere to win. David beats Goliath. (By the way, I told the story of David and Goliath to the twins last night during dinner. For your information, Luke and Max both have really, really strong muscles and wouldn't need a sling to kill Goliath.)

Examples: USSR over USA in basketball, USA over USSR in hockey, Douglas over Tyson, Truman over Dewey. And any non-Holocaust movie that wins an Oscar for Best Documentary.

II. The Non-Upset Upset

This is oddly more rewarding than the huge upset because you feel like you're one of a handful of people who thinks your underdog team is going to win.

Examples: Duke over UNLV in 92, Denver over Green Bay in 97, Seattle over Pittsburgh in 06 (oh, wait).

I. Over the Hump - Finally!

Your team ends some sort of losing streak by winning it all in dramatic fashion. This is especially satisfying if rival fans taunt your team, such as when generations of Yankee fans chanted "1918" to remind the kind-hearted New England folks of the last time the Red Sox won the World Series. This highest level of winning is even better -- if that's possible -- when your team beats the hated rival on their way to the championship. In other words, the 2004 Red Sox fans had the perfect sports moment, coming back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the Yankees and go on to win the World Series for the first time since . . . 1918!

Other examples: The Brooklyn Dodgers finally beat the hated New York Yankees in 1955; the New York Rangers finally won a Stanley Cup in 1994; Steve Young finally won a Super Bowl in 1995 (personal favorite #1), Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl in 2007 (personal favorite #2), and Martin Scorcese finally won an Oscar for Best Picture in 07.

Feel free to add categories and examples in comments. I reserve the right to update this entry by "leveraging" your suggestions.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Children of a Lesser Corn

It's one of those days at work. I'm between projects right now, so there isn't much to do. You'd think not having much to do at work would be relaxing. You'd think. But every writer or editor I know feels the same way about this lag time. It's vaguely stressful. There are always little tasks to do, but since I don't throw myself into them, I feel like I'm procrastinating. Another problem is that I have too much time to Think with a capital T about my job. How long am I going to keep doing this? What's next? So I've spent a lot of time not writing my novel and looking out the window where dozens of construction workers are building a huge new office space. I'm jealous. I could be outside driving a bulldozer or smoothing out cement or making lewd comments to passers-by. That has to feel good. When those guys drink water, they really need water.

For some reason, this reminds me of my very first pay-stub job. After my family had moved from Nebraska to Colorado when I was 13, I spent a year feeling lonely and sad. This was a difficult time for me because I had a bunch of great friends in Nebraska who diametrically opposed the bad, awful, evil inhabitants of Colorado Springs. The following summer, I was thrilled to take a bus back to Nebraska and stay with my best friend Paul. Paul's parents were strict and old-fashioned, so they didn't want a 14-year-old child (or his house guest) to go through life without learning the value of the dollar. It was about time we started taking some responsibility. Paul's mother persuaded us to take a job detasseling corn. The next morning, we woke up a 5:00 am, got a ride into Bellevue ten miles away, and then rode a bus for another hour into Iowa.

Not only were Paul and I were the youngest and smallest kids on the bus, but the other kids all seemed hard and mean, like part of a juvenile chain gang. When we got off the bus at the designated farm, an older kid started shouting the day's plans. Paul and I were the new kids, so we were the only ones paying attention to the guy. All I knew was that we had to pull the little brown tassels out of the tops of the corn stalks. This apparently made the corn sweet enough for people to eat. Each kid was assigned a row. The young foreman reluctantly showed Paul and me how to detassel the corn, and then he asked us to demonstrate. I bent the corn stalk down because I was too short to reach the top, battled with the tassel for about 30 seconds, and finally worked the tassel out of the corn. Thwap. I expected praise -- "That's real good, Bobby" -- but the foreman just grunted and said he'd see us at the end of the row.

The taller, more experienced kids plucked the tassels hand over hand, thwap-thwap-thwap, sending the tassels flying. They'd stop every now and then to smoke pot or sit down. After about two hours of hard work, I got my time down to about 10 seconds per stalk -- way too slow. The other detasselers were far ahead of me. My neck ached, my hands were bleeding, and I dealt with the feelings of failure about as poorly as you'd expect of a sensitive 14-year-old boy. It was almost enough to make me want to go back to Colorado. Almost. Time crawled by. When I finally arrived at the break area between rows, the foreman called me out by name. "Bringhurst! Come here!" According to the foreman, I not only picked too slowly, but I also missed a bunch of tassels. "Do you think the farmer's going to be happy with your row?"

I spent the next 8 hours (yes, it was a 10-hour work day) doing my best to detassel corn quickly. It was torture. When we all piled on the bus at the end of the brutal day, the foreman read names of people who were going to be fired: "Henderson, Grady, Bringhurst, Carter..." Adding to my humiliation, Paul's name wasn't called. When we got back to Bellevue, I approached the foreman and begged for another chance. "It was my first day. I'll do better tomorrow. I promise," I cried. He gave me another chance.

The next morning, I picked up the pace. Dreaming about corn stalks all night long must have done wonders, because I was no longer the slowest guy. And I figured out a system to make sure I didn't skip any corn stalks. We crossed one of the break areas between the rows, and I kept picking. My hands, neck, and back still hurt, but I didn't have the sense of failure that weighed me down the previous day. When it was lunch time, the foreman called me out again. "Bringhurst! Come here!" He then pointed out that the row I was assigned to was entirely unpicked.

"There must be some mistake," I muttered. "I did my whole row."

By the time I figured out what happened -- I picked someone else's row after the break between rows -- it was too late to talk to the foreman. I was already sitting on the bus. I sat alone on the bus for six hours.

Postscript: Paul worked one more day and then convinced his mother that he should quit for my sake. We spent the rest of the summer mowing lawns and going to the swimming pool.

Post Postscript: A week later, I received my paycheck in the amount of $23.14 for one-and-a-half days of work. The government do take a bite.

Post Post Postscript: A year later, I received an invitation to return as a foreman. Paul and his family teased me about that letter for the next twenty years, until I moved to Seattle. (Action item -- Dug or Fatty, during Fall Moab, ask Paul about detasseling corn. I guarantee he'll laugh before he says a single word.)